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Our lives are permanently changing and we are changing day after day, year after year. I know I am not the only one who feels as if their life took turns and changed directions that we didn’t necessarily want, or choose. We can’t control everything and it’s also a good idea not to try to, but there are some things in our life that we have to make conscious and well thought decisions about. If we don’t, we will invariably arrive at a point in our life where we will feel stuck, we won’t know how we ended up there or what to do to change that.

Moving to a different country is a big turn in our life. It comes with new feelings, new wishes, dreams, new frustrations and a lot of changes. As an expat, you will not only find yourself in a different culture that you’ll have to get to know and adapt to, but it’s very possible that you will find yourself in a totally different work environment and social interactions than the ones you were used to. Everything is different, from the food you’re eating to the way you connect with people. And then the struggle begins. Also the transformation. For me, personally, after a few years of living abroad, it feels as if I lost a part of myself in this adaptation to the new life. I also gained another part. My life changed a lot and so did I. As someone who constantly analyses herself, I was aware of a lot of the changes, but I also missed some along the way. I noticed that talking to other people about it helped me discover things I didn’t notice before. But let’s not make this too long and get to the point: I am always on a self-discovering journey, in a search for finding my place in this world and improving myself. That’s why, when I got an invite from GORTcoaching to try a few life coaching sessions, I knew immediately that this was something for me!

Spiral

I had considered life coaching before in my life but never tried it, for different reasons: stories that made me think it’s useless or a nonsense, the high fees, the unknown, the self criticism that said, “why do you need a coach, you should be able to guide your life by yourself, as all the other people do”. There is quite a misconception about life coaching, I think. When I started telling my friends about this opportunity, I noticed that many regarded it with suspicion; they didn’t know exactly what it was and some even thought it’s therapy. However, many of them were excited about it and they wanted to hear all about the meetings later.

I went to my first meeting with the coach having only a vague idea of what to expect. I was afraid I’ll get one of those speeches I really dislike, the pompous and not very real “you can do anything” type. To my relief, my coach proved to be a very down to earth person, realistic and with a practical approach to things. The first meeting was an orientation one: to see if we are a fit for each other and to decide what we need to work on. She skillfully guided me throughout our conversation, always getting me back on track when I was starting to digress from the point, asking very interesting questions. I already had in mind a few areas that I wanted to work on. After our orientation meeting, we decided to work on the personal branding part. Personal branding — as Wikipedia describes it — is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands.

Why did I chose this? In today’s society, people are “products”, they sell themselves all the time. It’s all about marketing, you keep hearing. We need to market ourselves, to be out here, so that companies, clients or even potential romantic partners can choose us from a large variety of offers. We need to differentiate ourselves from the others, to find our personal brand and develop it, present it to the world in an interesting fashion. At least that’s the trend. I have to admit I don’t like this approach, of treating people almost like merchandise. Probably that’s the reason I am a person who’s not very good at marketing herself. But, wanting or not, we have to market ourselves in one way or another: we all go to job interviews, school exams, clients, dates and even at parties where we meet new people. We have to shine and be self-confident, we have to stand out somehow, or we risk not being seen, being misunderstood, underestimated, under-evaluated, left aside. At least, that’s what I thought personal branding is all about. Truth is, as I found out, personal branding is not only about selling yourself, but also about knowing yourself well and showing yourself to the world in the right manner, whenever you need to.

Personal branding is a necessary endeavour, especially when you are an expat, and you have to present yourself in a different way to in your own country. When you define and redefine yourself constantly, while trying to adapt to a new environment. When you have the feeling that you permanently have to prove yourself, in all kind of interactions. Good thing I’m working on improving all this right now! I have homework to do until the next meeting, and I am very satisfied with what I got so far from my coaching sessions. I am very curious about the end result, but for that I need to have patience.

Notebook

If your interest in life coaching was roused by this article, if you think you could use some help to achieve your goals but you are not very sure if this is for you, you can just book a free meeting and see for yourself. Here are a few of my conclusions after the two sessions:

  • You are the person who knows best what’s good for you and what decisions you need to take. No coach will tell you what to do when you reach a dead end, but they might know how to ask the right questions and guide you to the right information that will help to figure it out.
  • The right question asked at the right time is priceless. One of my favourite questions from my sessions was: “how can you use the things that differentiate you from the others in your best interest”?
  • Coaching is not therapy: it’s not focused on healing your past, but on helping you achieving present and future goals.
  • Your friends cannot replace a specialised coach. Although I’m happy to say I have fruitful discussions with my friends, who are wise and talented people and very patient to split the hairs with me, I have to admit that talking to a person who’s objective and not involved in my life was better. Sometimes you just need to hear some things from someone who knows the correct way to tell them. Even if it’s just common sense.
  • Depending on the things you want to work on, you might need between three and ten sessions. You are the one who decides when to stop, when you achieved your goals or you feel like you don’t need further help.
  • You are still the one who needs to work on accomplishing the goals. Some life coaching sessions won’t change your life by miracle, but they will hopefully give you the right impulse to do what needs to be done. They are just the beginning.

Now, should you be interested in GORTcoaching, the company that provided my life coaching sessions, you can check their website for information about all the different types of coaching that they offer: career coaching, management coaching, burn-out coaching, expat coaching etc. They have coaches in different places in the Netherlands, you can search the one that suits you. If you think: “I am an expat, but I don’t need expat coaching” — like I did, you might still want to consider that someone who is an expat or lived abroad for a while can better understand your needs and worries. A specialised expat coach can help you and your family adjust to the new culture and the new way of life, but is not limited to that. The coaching you get can be on a variety of issues, but it comes from a former expatriate and might be more suitable for you.

If you are interested, you can go ahead and book a free orientation meeting. If you decide to go further with coaching after this initial meeting, and you mention you heard about them on Amsterdamian, you will receive a surprise gift. Who doesn’t like gifts?

 

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